What is the Direct Land Acquisition process?
The Open Space Program is able to directly acquire (or cover the full purchase cost of) any parcel of land that lies within one of the 11 identified acquisition corridors. Property outside the 11 acquisition corridors must be purchased with matching funds through the partnership grant program.
Direct land acquisition is pursued on a case-by-case basis, meaning that the type of acquisition method used will differ depending on each property’s unique characteristics. A comprehensive list of tools available for acquiring land appears in Chapter 4 of the Consolidated Open Space Plan. In practice, Wake County’s Open Space Program has primarily relied on fee simple acquisitions, conservation greenway easements and agricultural/greenway easements to protect land.
How does the Direct Land Acquisition process work?
1) Pre-Proposal Conversation
Typically, a landowner or organization that is interested in protecting a piece of land as open space will contact County staff and will engage in a pre-proposal discussion regarding whether or not this property will help the Open Space Program meet its goals. The County is under obligation to its taxpayers to spend open space bond money efficiently and, therefore, must reserve funds to protect priority lands. This means that non-priority land may not be eligible for purchase at this time.
2) Creation of Proposal
During the pre-proposal discussion, if County staff and the interested party agree that purchase of the particular property or easement will help the Open Space Program meet its goals, then a project proposal must be created. The purpose of this proposal is to justify why it is in Wake County’s best interest to expend open space funds to protect a particular piece of property. The Land Acquisition Review Committee (LARC) and the Open Space and Parks Advisory Committee (OSAPAC) must review all proposals before any County funds may be spent.
If the property owner is an individual, Open Space staff will help the landowner collect information and create a project proposal. On the other hand, if an organization or municipality is interested in participating in the partnership grant program, they must complete a project proposal form and provide necessary supplementary materials such as maps and property analysis documentation.
3) Proposal Review
After the project proposal has been written, County staff submit the proposal to LARC and OSAPAC for review and approval. LARC consists of management-level County employees, and OSAPAC is a citizen-appointed board. Favorable proposals are then taken to the Wake County Board of Commissioners (BOC), which votes to either approve or reject the proposed acquisition.
4) Upon Proposal Approval...
If the BOC approves expending County dollars, then a series of legal and financial transactions are undertaken that include signing a legal agreement and exchanging funds. After all necessary transactions are completed, the land acquisition is considered “closed,” and the property officially becomes a part of the County’s Open Space System.
What are the 11 acquisition corridors?
County policy states that the Open Space Program will pursue direct acquisition of land that lies within one of the following 11 acquisition corridors: Neuse River, Little River, Hominy Creek, Cedar Fork, Lowery Creek, Beaver Creek, Swift Creek between Lake Wheeler and Lake Benson, Steep Hill Creek, Marks Creek, Middle Creek, and Upper Neuse.
View a map of the acquisition corridors.
How were the 11 acquisition corridors identified?
These acquisition corridors were identified as conservation priorities according the processes described below:
Neuse River Corridor
The Neuse River and Little River corridors were actually identified as conservation priorities for Wake County prior to developing the Consolidated Open Space Plan. Land alongside the Neuse River was originally identified as a conservation priority for the City of Raleigh in their 1989 Comprehensive Plan. Wake County agreed to partner with the City of Raleigh and help protecting land along the Neuse that existed east of Raleigh’s jurisdictional boundaries.
Little River Corridor
Little River was named a conservation priority because the County decided land in the Little River would eventually be flooded to form a reservoir to supply drinking water. Wake County saw the need to protect the headwaters of Little River to ensure the reservoir would have good water quality and established purchasing land alongside Little River as a conservation priority.
Hominy Creek, Cedar Fork, Lowery Creek, Beaver Creek, Lake Wheeler/Lake Benson, Steep Hill Creek
These six additional corridors were identified as priorities for conversation through an extensive, multistep process that is described in Appendix F of the COSP. Four primary sources of information were used to help identify these corridors. These include: Wake County Watershed Management Plan, Wake County’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS), identification of natural and human resources from the county and state planning agencies, and input from citizens and municipal staff and officials.
Mark's Creek Corridor
The Mark's Creek corridor was added as the ninth priority acquisition corridor after the Triangle Land Conservancy completed an intensive study that revealed the ecological significance of this area. In 2003, Scenic America identified the Mark's Creek watershed as a "Last Chance Landscape" and advocates now refer to Mark's Creek as the "Hope Diamond of Open Space."
The upper Neuse River was added to the Open Space Program because of the importance of protecting a regional water supply watershed. Wake County is an active participant in the Upper Neuse Clean Water Initiative partnership. The Initiative is focused on protecting those lands most critical for the long-term safety and health of all drinking water supplies for the communities in the Upper Neuse River Basin including Falls Lake.
Wake County Parks, Recreation and Open Space has been purchasing land for the future Southeast County Park near Willow Springs for several years. Most of the property bought thus far sits along Middle Creek. With plans for a park, the abundance of land, unspoiled natural communities, and natural heritage status made Middle Creek a “natural” to become a priority corridor for the Open Space Program.